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Government to Government?

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

Understanding State-Indigenous Relations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand

September 12, 2013
12:00pm to 1:30pm

Many American Indian tribal governments have placed great emphasis on winning formal commitments of “government-to-government” relationships from various federal and state agencies, and have been willing to foreclose other political opportunities in order to achieve these commitments. What are the advantages and tradeoffs of formal government-to-government commitments, which may restrict other approaches to negotiation, consultation, and collaboration? I reflect on those implications by comparing experiences in the US to the varied political strategies of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Laura Evans joined the Evans School faculty in 2004. She studies the politics of American federalism. Dr. Evans explores the determinants of regional policy coordination and competition, with particular attention to institutional arrangements and racial and economic inequality.

Her recent book, Power from Powerlessness: Tribal Governments, Institutional Niches, and American Federalism (2011, Oxford University Press), examines American Indian tribal governments’ relations with states, localities, and the federal government. Dr. Evans shows how American Indian tribal governments sometimes succeed, often against dim odds, in persuading state and local governments to address important tribal concerns. She shows that even when opportunities for major federal policy change are limited, tribes have built particular types of supportive relationships—which she terms institutional niches—that help with cultivating political capacity. She offers new ideas about the interplay of political institutions and the politics of marginalized groups.

Dr. Evans is writing a book on agenda-setting in suburbs, tentatively titled, Ailing Agendas, Fractured Frames? Understanding (Un)Healthy Politics in America’s Suburbs. She evaluates the frames that suburban officials deploy to justify policies of exclusion, efficiency, or equity. She identifies uniquely suburban frames and agendas and their ramifications for American politics. In several other articles, she has analyzed how state legislatures govern local affairs. Also, she has begun new work on institutional change in federal Indian policy over the 20th century.

Dr. Evans was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University; a Brookings Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution; recipient of the 2012 award for Best Book on Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association; and recipient of the 2006 Best Dissertation Award from the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Evans holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and a M.P.P. from the University of Michigan. She also holds a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Areas of specialization

Intergovernmental Relations
Political Institutions
Race and Ethnicity
Urban and Regional Affairs


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